“When we see and acknowledge our own faults, it means that the ego is not in charge. We’re becoming more flexible people who respect the feelings and views of others, and who know how to solve problems and move forward. This is a very important sign of progress in the practice of Dzogchen.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
The Beauty of Awakened Mind (pg 173)
Photo of Ven. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche teaching during the PBC Palm Beach Dharma Center 2008 Winter Retreat by Derek Sarno.
“It’s extremely important to train our minds in love and compassion. Whenever you are faced with a difficult situation, if you can simply relax your mind, settle into meditation, and reconnect with pure love and the presence of Guru Padmasambhava, you are developing a very important skill. In this way, the more frightening bardo experiences will remind you to return to the primordial source and merge your mind with Guru Rinpoche, Vajrasattva, or any of the buddhas. All of the terrifying noises and uncomfortable visions are related to the winds. If you learn about these phenomena now, the bardo experiences will be just like a fire alarm going off, and you will remember
precisely what you need to do.
… At this point [after you die], bardo voyagers are restless, and their uncomfortable feelings gradually increase. This continues for about two weeks. You don’t like who you are or your circumstances, even though you may not recognize your real situation. For an ordinary person, the speed and uncontrollable chaos is overwhelming. Fear and anxiety may begin to dominate their mood.
There are no gross elements present at this stage. The bardo consciousness is developing in relation to its karmic winds of the four elements of earth, water, fire, and air. These four winds interact with our habit patterns and emotional instability, and give rise to further visions that tend to be rather frightening. When the earth wind becomes unbalanced, it causes you to feel like there are landslides and earthquakes. As the water wind is affected, you get stormy visions of heavy rain and crashing waves as if there were a hurricane, and this makes your consciousness more unsteady. When the fire wind is influenced, you see houses, buildings, and whole cities burning, and great fires spreading through mountain forests. When the wind of air is affected, you feel intense pressure, and hear howling and rumbling like a tornado is approaching.
If you were a kind-hearted, loving person, a guide often appears to assist you through this phase. This is very helpful because the situation is beginning to seem exhausting and endless, even as new changes continue to develop rapidly. For those who have been involved in negative activities like torturing, killing humans, or even butchering animals, malicious beings appear who cause trouble and confusion for them wherever they go. Any time they begin to feel safe and secure, someone suddenly appears to disturb them and destroy their peace of mind. This happens over and over again.
… After about three weeks, the habit patterns of your previous life begin to lose force and dissolve. The energy of the patterns begins to wane, and your normal vision of things is shown to be false. At this point, your consciousness undergoes a crisis of deep uncertainty about the nature of existence. Everyone who wanders this far into the bardo will have this kind of experience, regardless of their habits. Gradually, visions of your future life appear like the glow before sunrise. This gets stronger and clearer as you approach the dawn of future habit patterns and karmic rebirth. It’s not yet very bright, but even so, it’s attractive
because you’re tired of being afraid and wandering without any support.
During the fourth week, the emerging pattern of the future becomes even stronger. You start to feel comfortable with it. Your association with your previous habitual body ends as a new form arises, and you like the feel of the energy. It’s like taking birth in the god realm, with a rosy anticipation of some security as the light slowly increases.
While the beginning of your next life is inevitably approaching, lights of different colors and intensities will appear. The nature of your thoughts and attachments determine which color is attractive, and where you will take rebirth. By the seventh week, you abandon almost all attention to past memories, and shift your focus to your new situation. Everything becomes increasingly defined, until somewhere around forty-nine days when the average person takes up residence in a womb.
In most cases, reincarnation is not a conscious decision—it’s determined by the power of karma. If you haven’t practiced, you will have difficulty recognizing the opportunities for liberation in the clear light, and you’ll be carried by the force of your karmic winds. They will drive you along and you won’t have much choice. Practitioners who have some understanding of the mind have the ability to influence their destination and choose a higher rebirth. They may even get to be born to parents they like. But most beings just wander for awhile, visiting different places in their mental body. After an average of forty-nine days, they re-enter the bardo of birth and life in one of the six realms according to their karma.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
The Essential Journey of Life and Death, Vol. 1 (pgs 198-201)
Photo of the Padma Samye Ling sky in 2008, as well as the six bardos of living and dying.
“Remember, you do not always have to speak or act in order to be of benefit to others—silence and stillness can be very powerful too.”
Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche
Inborn Realization: A Commentary on His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche’s Mountain Retreat Instructions (pg 168)
Photo of Ven. Khenpo Rinpoche bestowing empowerment in Kalmykia in 2017.
“Our wisdom body is not like an empty house. It’s filled with so many beautiful qualities. From our wisdom body, indestructible wisdom speech arises vividly and clearly, knocking down all our habitual patterns and dualities, crumbling the dense ice of obscurations that we’ve carried from beginningless time until now. Today we’re melting that ice, knocking down all our fixed conceptions with our vajra speech and sound. The nature of our speech is the same nature of our body and wisdom mind—it’s the sound of emptiness, compassion, loving-kindness, and wisdom.
How are we going to learn vajra sound, and experience all the sound systems in the world as vajra sound? We’re going to start with ourselves. We’re not starting from outside; we start within. That’s the beauty of the Vajrayana teachings. In visualization practice, this is known as reciting mantras and prayers. Mantra recitation is the heat of love, compassion, and wisdom that melts the ice of duality. It’s the light that clears away the darkness of ignorance. This indestructible sound is great emptiness. We can see this immediately. The moment right after sound arises, it dissolves and then reappears. It’s an ongoing, spiraling wheel carrying a tremendous magnitude of power, blessings, and abilities through every galaxy. But it doesn’t just start in some local area in our body. Of course it might appear very localized, but actually it’s a vibrating, ripple effect moving through all physical systems— our channels, winds, and the entire space of our inner body, as well as through the entire universe. All of this begins from the primordial wisdom nature of our mind, the self-born Guru Padmasambhava. The whole universe of sound is transformed into a beautiful vajra sound system. Mantra is not an isolated thing happening once in a while. It’s the ongoing sound system of the mandala. We’re discovering the infinite, continuous, unceasing sound system of the vajra.
As we continue to practice visualization, we deepen our understanding that the nature of all forms and sounds is emptiness. Body and speech are both the transcendental wisdom rainbow body. Everything is in this wisdom state. When we discover the indestructible nature of our body and speech, and maintain our realization of the empty, transcendental nature of all forms and sounds, this is visualization practice.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
The Essential Journey of Life and Death, Volume 1 (pgs 52-53)
Photo of Ven. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche dissolving a sand mandala in PBC Puerto Rico around 2006.
“The great master Chandrakirti was one the foremost masters of Madhyamaka in Buddhist history. He is renowned for establishing the Madhyamaka view through logic, analysis, and debate. He always said, “Do not go against the systems of samsara.” He also said that good conduct must be attuned to the needs of others. For example, when a person is experiencing great suffering and you say, “This suffering of yours does not truly exist—it is a dream,” how do you think that person will accept it? You may experience your own suffering as a dream, but if you truly want to help that person, you must be able to enter his or her world. You cannot impose your view on others. Unless you know for certain that saying, “It is a dream” will cure that person’s pain, your words are useless, and maybe even harmful. And you will be creating more obscurations for yourself.
Chandrakirti was the head abbot of Nalanda Monastic University. He was not only a great scholar, but was also one of the eighty-four mahasiddhas. The biographies of Chandrakirti tell how he could pass his arms through stone pillars, and that he could literally milk cows painted on thangkas. This great master had boundless realization of the true nature, yet he continuously emphasized the importance of good conduct to his students and practiced this himself.
Like Chandrakirti, Shantarakshita was once the head abbot of Nalanda Monastic University, and was also both a great scholar and siddha. Shantarakshita taught that we should continually balance absolute and relative truth in our practice. When Shantarakshita came to Tibet, he did not give Madhyamaka teachings right away. First, he gave instructions on taking refuge. Then he gave teachings on the ten virtuous activities, and after that he taught the five skandhas. He made certain that the Tibetan people were grounded in the relative truth before introducing them to the absolute truth.
… The practice of good conduct is always related to the laws of cause and effect, or karma. This means that as Dzogchen practitioners, we need to know what types of actions actions yield positive and negative results, adopting the positive and avoiding the negative. Yet just as our conduct must not be lost in the view, the view must not be lost in our conduct. In other words, even though we follow the systems of good behavior taught in the Dharma and practiced in the societies where we live, and even though we’re very careful regarding karma, we should not become regimented and petty. The view is as vast as space; the conduct is refined like barley flour. Be utterly open, and do what is good.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
The Beauty of Awakened Mind: Dzogchen Lineage of the Great Master Shigpo Dudtsi (pgs 183-184)
Photo of Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche praying at Padma Gochen Ling in Monterey, Tennessee around 2006, by Libba Gillum Miller.
“According to the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni and Guru Padmasambhava, “benefitting others now” refers to this very lifetime. “Benefitting in the future” refers to lives after this lifetime. Life doesn’t end when we die.There is a continuous spiral of life that goes on until we reach enlightenment. Throughout these lives, there are always ups and downs, so we dedicate our merit for now and for all future lives of change and movement. “During all the waves that beings go through, may this merit positively affect them all the time—like multiple time-release capsules! According to their needs, may this merit continually benefit all beings. Not only may it benefit them, but may it ignite their buddha-nature, their own inner goodness, so they’re not relying on something completely outside of themselves. May they develop their positive energies and abilities, which come back to all beings, including ourselves, so there is an unending abundance of enlightenment qualities and good things unfolding all the time for everyone’s benefit.” Sincerely wish this.
We dedicate this merit and every good deed we do with our body, speech, and mind, including all our good deeds of the past. This is why dedication is the final touch of our meditation. We conclude our practice session and then continue. When we dedicate the merit, whatever we did that was good is never spoiled by any future circumstance. In a way, we’re securing and sealing it up to make sure it remains all the time—not just for now, but so that life after life it touches every living being. When we dedicate, we can highlight our friends, family members, or whoever we’re specifically praying for, but we should also dedicate the merit to everyone so that it connects to every sentient being.”
Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche
The Essential Journey of Life and Death, Volume 1:
Chapter 20: Foundation Practice (pgs 286-287)
Watch: How to Perform a Simple Riwo Sang Chod Fire Puja Meditation Practice at Home
Photo of Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Rinpoche teaching on the Riwo Sang Chod fire puja meditation practice at Padma Samye Ling on May 31, 2014.
“Bodhichitta can be divided into two forms: absolute and relative bodhichitta.
Relative bodhichitta has to do with the intention of wanting to help people—we develop a feeling of concern toward those who are suffering.
Absolute bodhichitta is related to fully actualizing bodhichitta after we embark on the bodhisattva path. Rather than simply having the intention to remove suffering, eventually we become capable of actually removing others’ suffering. This happens when we realize the true nature of bodhichitta, which is currently only a potential.
Bodhichitta is divided into the cultivation of merit and the cultivation of wisdom. The five paramitas [pha rol tu phyin pa] of engaging in generosity, morality, patience, joyful effort, and concentration are based on the accumulation of conceptual merit. The accumulation of nonconceptual wisdom is based on the last paramita of prajna or wisdom. Prajna sheds a whole new light on how we understand each of the paramitas.
For instance, while practicing the paramita of generosity we might engage in giving. As we reflect on the activity of giving, we begin to realize that ultimately there is no giver, no recipient, and no gift. In this way, we come to understand that everything is insubstantial. There is no true substantiality in the conceptual divisions that we make regarding giver, recipient, and gift.
Sometimes the six paramitas are classified differently according to the three principles of ethics, concentration, and wisdom, otherwise known in Sanskrit as shila [tshul khrims], samadhi, and prajna.
Ethics is when we refrain from harming others. Ethics has to do with how our mind relates to things.
Concentration is whenever we are able to keep our attention on what we are doing in the present moment. Strictly speaking, for us to be in meditative concentration it does not matter what sort of object our mind is directed toward.
Wisdom covers a broad range of things, beginning with ordinary intellectual exercises such as accumulating facts and figures, and learning mathematics, medicine, logic, and so on. Gradually, wisdom includes understanding that the true condition of things is insubstantial and empty, and realizing that there is no permanent, substantial ego that endures through all of our temporary experiences.
We should not be too rigid in our thinking about what is and what is not Dharma practice. Sometimes people think that Dharma practice means to throw oneself into some formal practice for years and years, and that if we don’t do that we are not practicing at all. But this is not true. The practice of Dharma has to start off with whatever we are doing. Being mindful and aware, and trying to acknowledge and correct mistakes in our life is itself Dharma practice.
In a teaching on Vinaya, the Buddha said that we should not look at small, wholesome practices as something that can be ignored, and only pursue what we believe to be formal practice. Instead, we must accustom ourselves to doing small, good things so that the whole process starts to build on itself. He gave the example that if we place a pot underneath a leak in the ceiling, over time water will come through the ceiling, drop into the pot, and before we know it the pot will be full. Similarly, if we are able to predispose ourselves in a particular manner, and become familiar with doing certain things, eventually we will be used to doing those things in that way.”
Ven. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche
Turning the Wisdom Wheel of the Nine Golden Chariots (pgs 58-59)
Photo of Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche bestowing the empowerment of Lake Born Guru Padmasambhava in Portland, Oregon on September 18, 2016 by Derek Sarno.